Rory McIlroy's season ends early

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The last time he was in Chicago, Rory McIlroy quite famously received some speedy assistance from a police officer to make his Ryder Cup tee time at Medinah.

No doubt he wanted to race out of town sometime over this weekend.

McIlroy was hopelessly out of the BMW Championship on Friday after opening the tournament with rounds of 78-77. And that meant he wasn't going to qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship, a rather preposterous notion at the start of the year.

A year ago, McIlroy won the BMW Championship in Indianapolis, captured two of the four FedEx Cup playoff events and finished second in the points standings to Brandt Snedeker.

Even to McIlroy, his struggles remain a mystery.

"I'm working harder," said McIlroy, who shot rounds of 68-68 over the weekend for too little, too late. "Everything sort of came easy last year, and I'm sort of working harder, hitting more balls, spending more time on the range because I'm searching for it, and that's what is frustrating. But the fact that I'm working hard and I'm not really getting much out of it, if I can I keep patient and keep working hard, I'm sure it'll turn around."

As for the rest of field at Conway Farms Golf Club, 22 players never even started their final round Sunday due to heavy rains. Round 4 will restart at 9 a.m. ET on Monday.

McIlroy likely needed a top-seven finish and perhaps could have gotten away with a top-10 at the BMW to advance. He began the week in 41st position but was projected to finish 51st when he completed his fourth round Sunday. Only the top 30 will head to Atlanta.

Who could have dreamed of such a scenario, especially when the new year dawned with so much hype and fanfare for the then-No. 1-ranked golfer in the world?

Certainly not McIlroy, who stayed the weekend in Chicago only because there was no 36-hole cut.

"If someone had asked me at the start of the year, would you be more surprised at not winning a major or not getting to the Tour Championship, of course I would have said the latter," McIlroy said. "The majors are based on one week, four times a year when a lot of things have to go your way.

"But over the course of the season, I feel like I should be able to play well enough to get to East Lake. I didn't expect to be in this position."

Who did?

It remains among the stories of the year in golf, McIlroy's fall from the heights of such glory.

A year ago at this time, McIlroy captured the BMW for his third victory in three starts, including the PGA Championship. He would go on to win the season-ending European Tour event in Dubai, capturing the money title on two tours.

He showed up in Abu Dhabi in January for a grand announcement including a fireworks display trumpeting his signing of a lucrative endorsement deal with Nike.

And nothing has been the same since, all manner of conjecture part of the process.

Changes of 14 clubs in his bag, a high-profile girlfriend in tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, a switch in his management company, the bad PR that came from walking off the course at the Honda Classic ... it's been a tough year, with rare instances of good play.

In 19 worldwide tournaments, McIlroy has missed four cuts, withdrawn from another tournament and finished worse than 40th on five occasions. His best finish was second at the Valero Texas Open the week before the Masters, his only top-5 this season.

Perhaps most disappointing was that McIlroy was a nonfactor at three of the major championships and only briefly made a move at the PGA Championship, where he tied for eighth.

The issues have been numerous throughout the year, including poor driving and putting -- or the inability to put all facets of his game together at once.

Coming into the BMW Championship, McIlroy rued his proclivity for double-bogeys as well as some lackluster play around the greens. He had eight doubles in the FedEx Cup, then added four more doubles plus a triple this week. During the opening round, he had one hole where it took him 5 strokes to get in from just off the green.

"I'm just not scoring well," McIlroy said. "I'm missing it on the wrong side, missing greens with wedges. I just don't have my scoring hat on. That's what is holding me back. I'm hitting the ball pretty well, I'm just not scoring. There were glimpses of it at the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank, and then take a week off and you've got a [scorecard] in your hand and it's different with a [scorecard] in your hand.

"It's frustrating, but I'm trying to stay as patient as I can."

If nothing else, McIlroy will have a bit of time to think about things. He is planning a monthlong break before embarking on a six-tournament stretch of events that includes four tournaments in Asia, three of which are on the European Tour. He is also scheduled to play the Australian Open and Tiger Woods' World Challenge event.

"I'd like to finish the year on a high so I can go into next season with a little bit of momentum and a few positive feelings," he said.

At this point, that is probably the only way to look at the situation.